I returned home last week from racing in Europe for five weeks. Throughout those five weeks, there were at least eight times were I get reprimanded by an IBU (International Biathlon Union) official for a rule infraction. Here are some of those instances which could be grounds for disqualification:
- Being on the course less than five minutes before the race begins, even if it is a 3.3k loop and you are .5k away from the finish line. This is how the conversation will go with the official: “If I am correct, you will not be racing today. The race is starting in less than five minutes and you are on it.” “Ok. I am very sorry. I will walk back” Pause for a moment. “I will be nice this time and let you race. You must learn.” “Thank you! Thank you!”
- Skiing backwards on the range to put your rifle on the rack during training (I swear other people were doing it too!)
- Shooting with a vest covering your “athlete” bib during “official training.”
- Going to a shooting point and not realizing that one of the targets was already closed until I got in position and was ready to shoot. I wasn’t sure what to do and couldn’t remember exactly what I did after the race, so I was excited to see my name listed on the results and not get disqualified. (I now know that the correct procedure is: magazine out, rifle on back, ski to a functioning point, then shoot).
- Having an empty shell still in the chamber when you line up to start that race (this is important!)
- Having too many logos or improperly sized logos on your clothing or hat or buff.
- Not getting your rifle checked in time. It turns out there are specific times for this to happen, and it is not ten minutes before your start when you start bib 90 out of 100 (thank you very much to the kind volunteers who found me out to sort this out).
- The final one, which actually did lead to not finishing the race: getting lapped by the leaders in a pursuit. At least this is not listed on the results as DSQ, but rather as LAP. Our final race in Europe was a pursuit, where everyone starts based on their time back from the previous day’s winner. The field was small (less than 60 people) and only the top 60 qualify for a pursuit, so every was qualified to race. This means that the spread of times was large (more than 6 minutes) and despite everyone after four minutes starting at the same time as a wave, I was lapped by the fastest racers after the third shooting (out of four), and pulled out of the race. Generally people are (understandably) disappointed to be pulled out of the race, but I was excited to have made it as far as I did, through three shootings, the first two of which were really good.
Despite these slight technical difficulties and developing a fear of men wearing purple jackets, I had a great time in Europe. It was my first time racing overseas, for either skiing or biathlon, and I was looking to go over with as few expectations and to gain as much experience as possible. I certainly succeeded in being exposed to a whole new world of racing and biathlon and learning a lot.
After a frigid series of qualifying races at Mt. Itasca in Northern Minnesota, Emily, Alex, and I (and eventually Mike) got the opportunity to cross the Atlantic and race the IBU Cup series. The IBU Cup is a step down from the World Cup, and is a combination of juniors, developing athletes, and World Cup racers who aren’t currently on the World Cup.
Our first races were in Martell, Italy and were extraordinarily windy. “Wind lottery,” was the phrase thrown around to describe the shooting conditions. The course wound through dusty fields on a ribbon of it.
We next went to Arber, Germany, where the weather was once again not in our favor. The first races were postponed until the next day because of high winds and swirling snow, making it impossible to see the targets.We were able to race once and did an individual race, where my name graced pretty close to the bottom of the results sheet.
We had a week of from racing, which we spent in Toblach/ Dobbiacio, Italy. This week was awesome because we:
- Got to watch the cross country World Cup team sprint and see Ida!
- Skied on 40k of perfect (manmade) skiing in the sun
- Watched the biathlon World Cup mass start in Antholtz and see Susan and Clare (two World Cups in one week!)
We then headed to Duszniki- Zdroj, Poland for Open European Championships. There were more World Cup regulars here than usual on the IBU Cup, a newly redone venue, lots of fans, and TV cameras broadcasting live, so these races felt like a big deal. Every race in Poland was my best ever shooting for that sort of race (individual, sprint, and relay), which was really exciting. I also got to race a relay for the first time, which was fun.
Our final stop on our European tour brought us to Orslbie, Slovakia. Orslbie had a much smaller field than the previous races, as some teams went home to prepare for World Champs or have more rest before the final IBU cups. As I talked about earlier, I got to race the pursuit, which felt like a big game of cat and mouse.
We are home now, with a NorAm last weekend in Jericho and another this weekend in Lake Placid and tons and tons of snow falling in Craftsbury in between.